It is not surprising that Will Smith was fearful of playing Genie in Guy Ritchie's Aladdin. Considering how he had to fill the late actor Robin Williams' shoes, the task was no piece of cake. However, once he started shooting songs for the film, all the childlike silliness flowed through the actor!
In an interview with SlashFilms, Smith opened up on dealing with the pressure of playing Genie, which was originally Robin Williams' jam. He said, "Disney magic is real. This is my first Disney movie, and there's something that Walt Disney did in the design of these stories and at the core of these stories is something that shocks the inner child within you and forces it to come alive and smile and appreciate the moment. For me, coming into this, first starting with fear – what Robin Williams did with this character was...he didn't leave a lot of room to add to the Genie – so I started off fearful. But then when I got with the music, it just started waking up that fun, childlike, silly part of me."
He further continued, "The song that got me over the hump of, 'Yes, I can play Genie' was 'Friend Like Me.' I went into the studio the first day and I really wanted to play with it to see if I could add something to it. Literally thirty minutes in the studio, starting to play with it, finding that 94-96 bmp (beats per minute) range, we were playing around in there. Ultimately I think it was a little bit faster than that, but that 94-96 bmp range is right old school hip-hop. So I grabbed The Honey Drippers' 'Impeach the President,' which is a really classic old school hip-hop break beat, and I had them throw that break beat under there. I messed with that, and I messed with Eric B. and Rakim's 'I Know You Got Soul' under 'Friend Like Me,' and I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm home. I'm home.' I started playing with the hip-hop flavor and the Genie was really born in my mind from the music."
Another interesting fact that Will Smith revealed during his interview was the truth behind his spotless blue Genie. Turns out the Genie in Aladdin is actually 100 per cent CGI! "A lot of people don't even recognize this, but the Genie is 100% CGI. People look at it and think it's my face blue, and it's my body. The Genie is 100% CGI. There's none of me in the Genie. It's like the work was so good, that they don't even get credit for it...I would just be on set, we'd run the scenes and everything, and I could improv on set because I knew it wouldn't necessarily be in the movie. Then we'd do the first round of the CGI work and we could go again and work it. Then Guy watched the whole movie, and I had another chance to go back and we could play with lines and make adjustments because [the visual effects people] were going to create it anyway. So for me, there was tons of improv," said Smith.
Recently, a premiere of Aladdin was held where Will Smith's family appeared. The whole family including Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow, Trey and Jaden were present to support Smith. Aladdin releases today, May 24.